Toronto artist Runt (a.k.a. Alex Currie) is probably best known as the mastermind behind the iconic façade of Lee’s Palace. His most recent effort is “The Hanna Barberic Show,” an exhibition featuring his own work and that of like-minded artists. We asked Runt to break down one of his pieces, from initial concept to finished canvas.
1. “When I do a painting, my first intention is to make something that looks beautiful. I’m shallow as hell—if I was a river and you were an ant, you wouldn’t drown in me. I have no intention of changing the world with my art, but if it makes your day a little better, I’m fine with that.”
2. “I draw the characters in pencil first. I like to take a few days drawing. I want to make sure my characters are funny and that they interact. But I’m only good for a couple of ideas a day, and then I’m burnt out. Then it’s three o’clock, and I go to the bar.”
3. “I’m a one-trick pony: I’ve sort of created my own little genre. Some people say that my stuff is rude, but I don’t think it’s rude at all. I think it’s light-hearted entertainment. It’s like a Meg Ryan film—an aggressive Meg Ryan film.”
4. “If you check Lee’s Palace, these characters are there. I have so many of them that they’re bound to be repeated. In 1989, I decided to put everything in one notebook. My memory isn’t that fresh—I can’t keep track of them. If I lost that book, I’d be fucked.”
5. “I so love Dr. Seuss. He’s the bomb. Then there’s [American artist and musician] Robert Crumb, and Hieronymus Bosch, who was a painter in the 15th century—a lot of heavy-metal people use his stuff. Those are my basic influences.”
6. “My pieces are more a collage of characters than anything else. [After I draw them in pencil,] I magic-marker them, I paint them, and then I outline them in black. I usually use the cityscape as a background; it mixes it all together and ties it all in.”
7. “All my work is based on getting money. It’s always with the purpose of making rent. Next thing I’m doing is a toilet seat. I said to the guy, ‘Pay me 90 bucks and I’ll paint it for you—the only thing is that it has to be a new toilet seat.’”
8. “Cartoon dicks and cartoon breasts are the best. When you draw a penis, you’re in control of the size.”
9. “I love Pac-Man. I love the idea of the eating. It has this totally consumer [undertone], whatever message you want to take from that. You know how easy it is to draw Pac-Man? Am I going to draw Call of Duty? I don’t think so.”
10. “I went to college and studied film in 1980. Everyone had a film-production company, so I tried to think of a company name. I thought of Runt, because back then I just wanted to do films about farting and peeing. I love that shit. If I can get away with it, why not? I don’t make enough money to make me afraid to do that.”
“HANNA BARBERIC” BY THE NUMBERS
5: Number of artists on display (Runt, Mike Parsons, Menno Krant, David Irvine, John Abrams).
40: Number of pieces on display at the show.
$500: Amount Runt was paid for the original Lee’s Palace mural.
“The Hanna Barberic Show” runs to Jan. 31 at Steam Whistle Brewing (255 Bremner Blvd.), 416-362-2337, steamwhistle.ca.